Heart disease accounts for one-year $70B spike in patient hospital charges
Hospital charges in the U.S.—including what patients are billed for their rooms, nursing care, diagnostic tests and other services—jumped from $873 billion in 2005 to $943 billion in 2006, according to the News and Numbers released this week by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The agency said that the steep increase occurred even though hospital admissions increased only slightly, from 39.2 million to 39.5 million. Insured patients and their health plans pay less than the full charge, but uninsured patients are expected to pay the full amount.
Between 2005 and 2006, hospital charges increased by:
  • $38 billion to $44 billion—15 percent for people with no insurance;
  • $124 billion to $135 billion—9 percent for Medicaid patients;
  • $411 billion to $444 billion—8 percent for Medicare patients; and
  • $272 billion to $287 billion—6 percent for patients with private insurance.
One–fifth of the national hospital bill was for treatment of five conditions—three of which were circulatory conditions: coronary artery disease (CAD), mother’s pregnancy and delivery, newborn infants, acute MI (AMI) and congestive heart failure. Hospital stays for coronary artery disease incurred the highest total charges ($53 billion), according to the report.

The AHRQ also reported that CAD involved 1.2 million hospital stays and was the most expensive condition treated, resulting in 5.6 percent of the total national hospital bill, translating into $53 billion in charges. More than half of the hospital stays for CAD were among patients who received percutaneous coronary angioplasty (PTCA) or CABG during their stay. AMI resulted in $35 billion of hospital charges for 675,000 hospital stays. The 1.1 million hospitalizations for congestive heart failure amounted to $33 billion in national hospital charges.

The AHRQ said it obtained its information on data from HCUP Statistical Brief #59: The National Bill: The Most Expensive Conditions by Payer, 2006, which uses statistics from the 2006 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of inpatient stays in all short-term, non-federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the U.S. and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.